Edmodo

I’ve been working with a group of HS teachers that work in a one-computer classroom environment. After introducing them to Edmodo this past October, two of them (a language arts and a history teacher) decided to utilize it. (If you are not familiar with Edmodo, take a look at this video.)

We met again on January 13th and I was so pleased to hear how things have been going.

Both teachers mentioned the benefits of using Edmodo:

  • It’s user friendly
  • Instantaneous
  • There’s a polling option
  • Students can submit assignments
  • It allows for a paperless environment
  • It seems like it accepts most file types
  • The teachers can edit student comments and posts
  • Students have their own accounts
  • Teachers can send alerts to their classes
  • You can connect with other teachers

At this point in time, the history teacher uses Edmodo mostly for course management. Students must submit their assignments through Edmodo in order to receive credit. In the past, the teacher was getting e-mails with attachments from his students. Frequently he would hear excuses about assignments being sent, but not received. Now, since they are all on the same platform, the student can show him when it was sent.

The language arts teacher said that students communicate with him more through Edmodo (virtually) than in class (face-to-face). He requires blog posts from a set of students each week. Since sometimes information from these posts are included on exams, students are required to read them and comment. The language arts teacher felt that time is lost during small group instruction to socializing, so some of these conversations have been moved over to the Edmodo forums.  This leaves the conversations in class more focused and in-depth and there is time to cover more literature and push their critical thinking skills. Specifically, the teacher mentioned that time spent in literature circles was often time lost to socializing. He couldn’t be with each group simultaneously, so it was difficult to moderate the conversations.  With Edmodo, this was no longer an issue.  Now he feels he has a greater presence in the classroom.

We spent some time discussing how the students were able to get all this computer time when each classroom is only equipped with a tablet computer and a wireless projector. It really came down to students using their home computers. Both teachers said that “there isn’t a working printer in the entire town”, so prior to using Edmodo, students would not hand in their homework as they couldn’t print it. Each teacher gives the students plenty of time to complete assignments so that they can make arrangements to use a computer in school or at home. Actually, out of the 120 plus students they have combined, there are two students who don’t have computers at home. Impressively, the majority do have smartphones and with the Apps that Edmodo has for the iPhone and Android, there’s just no excuse.

So, how is Edmodo benefiting the students?

The two teachers felt that:

  • Knowing their audience had grown, students writing was improving
  • Being able to embed videos was encouraging students to look for quality content on YouTube
  • It was a great way for students to communicate in a forum rather than just one-way e-mail with the teacher
  • As an intro to blogging
  • Student responsibility has gone up – everyone is submitting everything on time.
  • Student engagement is up
  • They are learning from each other
  • They are speaking up more in Edmodo than in the classroom
  • There are great teachable moments about what to type that people can see
  • They are practicing writing for purpose and audience. They can use text messaging in the Forums with each other, but if it’s being graded,  it must be grammatically correct.
  • Their grammar is better for a larger audience

Their recommendations for teachers new to Edmodo were:

  • Color code your classes so it’s easy to see which class a student is from
  • The students got comfortable fast. Be prepared to consider removing some threads and allowing the students to start again as they learn proper etiquette.
  • Just start it. It’s worth it.
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7 Months Later – The One Computer Classroom

Most of my job for the Center at Rutgers is sustained professional development. I truly believe in this model as you can only learn so much in four hours or a day. You have to have time to think about it and implement it. Participants have to feel comfortable and willing to ask questions and try activities again.

One of the districts I began working with this year has decided to begin integrating technology into the curriculum by purchasing tablet PCs and projectors for their middle and high school math and science teachers. This is the first phase of a multi-year initiative that they have planned that slowly upgrades their level of technology literacy.

The HS teachers entered their comments in a public Google spreadsheet.

This first cohort of teachers are thrilled to have a laptop/tablet to use. It’s the first piece of hardware they’ve had in years that they can rely on for productivity, classroom presentation and small group activities. We were allotted pretty much a meeting a month. Well, not even. We met five times over the last seven months and communicated via a Ning I set up for all the teachers enrolled in the program.

When we gathered for our final session, the teachers spoke of how thrilled the students were about using the tablet. It’s still novel, even in April. Students don’t have access to tablets in all classes as they’re being rolled out over a couple of years, so they look forward to using it when they can.

Students also look forward to being engaged by the types of technologies and activities that we have reviewed and  implemented this past seven months:

Each session, we also reviewed specific content-related resources in biology, physics, chemistry, environmental science, math analysis, algebra, calculus and geometry.

The biology teacher, Steven Klass, even went as far as to create a private education (social) network for his students using Edmodo. He had requested some information early on in the year about how to create one safely and effectively and we had discussed some benefits of encouraging students to communicate about classroom content online. Using Edmodo, Mr. Klass up his AP Biology students to talk about content online. He also posted resources from class and it turns out, so did they. He was pleasantly surprised when, after a few weeks in Edmodo, students from his class started posting links to biology videos and articles for their classmates to read. He even wound up inviting a few students from another section in so that they could also benefit from the information.

I noted as we were scanning the chat that there was one student who was very vocal in the logs. I asked Mr. Klass if this happened to be a student who participated a lot in his physical class, and no surprise to many of you reading this post, this was a typically quiet student. It was a pleasure to listen as the teachers in the room spoke of how he participate online versus in the room and how the wheels churned a bit as to how this might benefit some of their students as well. Next year, Mr. Klass plans on opening the social network to the rest of his science students.

So, it’s been all positive in my post up till now. I try to be open and honest and this time is no different than others. One teacher admitted that he just could not use technology as a resource for students to submit assignments. He was not having success with it this year. He would, however, set the expectation from the beginning next year with the families, and give it a try again in the fall.

Another teacher admitted that the technology does keep the students engaged, but she was unwilling to share the tablet with them, so the students really weren’t benefiting from hands-on time. Yet, she’s in the chart above transforming from verbal lecture only to sideshows with hyperlinks and videos. There is progress and the hope for more next year.

Are you in a school where the technology is not in the hands of the students? How do you go about getting it to them? Is it through homework or class time or some other way? Please share your experiences or suggestions.

Social Networking in High School

Is the average high school student able to define social networking or give an example of it? I thought most would use Facebook as an example, but during a recent visit to a local high school, one freshman student used e-mailing his teacher in First Class as an example.  Many of his classmates were of the same opinion as he, so it opened up a much-needed conversation during which this classroom full of 20 students spoke about where they preferred to network with each other.
Their preferred places to communicate with their friends:
As for social networking in schools, the students felt that there were just too many places to have to check already (a complaint that teachers share themselves).  It was the one topic of conversation that period that everyone in the room seemed to agree on. The complaint was that in one subject area the teacher would use Moodle, the next Google Apps, the next Diigo and that ultimately they forgot to check something and missed turning in an assignment.
Image Credit: http://treatingyourself.com

When asked which network would be the preferred place to use for school, students had a tough time coming to a consensus. We posed a similar request as to which gaming system the majority of the class would prefer to use (ie X-Box, Wii, Nintendo DSi) and they could not make a decision either. We reasoned that teachers felt the same and found it difficult to find a content management system or collaboration tool that satisfied every staff member in a building which resulted in all these different tools the students had to use.

The conversation ended with a link to a Wallwisher we had set up in the hopes that those that didn’t particate in the conversation might take a stab at it this way. They didn’t really. The comments left were from the same boys (the young ladies remained very quiet during our session together) that shared their opinions during class and the tool, in this case, didn’t reveal anything that our talk hadn’t uncovered. But it did introduce the classroom teacher to an easy way to post a question or topic and have students share answers.
Yet another place to have to check for information.

How Can We Help?

The "Fail Whale" made an appearance at the #140conf meetup

It was the last question asked from the audience at the #140conf meetup at the New York Times building yesterday in Manhattan. Just over 70 social media gurus gathered to listen to three members of the NY Times team speak and then a panel of educators (of which I was honored to participate in) moderated by Parentella.com founder Aparna Vashisht.  Liz Pullen, Deven Black and I fielded questions regarding how Twitter was being used by educators for professional development, with students, and as a social networking tool in education.

Here’s a link to the  Ustreamed recording of the panel if you are interested in listening/viewing the discussion that Aparna moderated. I think that many in  the audience were surprised at just how networked teachers CAN be. So I think that when Chris Kieff closed the conversation that evening with “How can we help?” we were right to answer with Donors Choose and to just continue supporting educators as professionals.

Preparations for an Online Social Networking Safety Seminar

I agree with Chad Lehman’s post earlier this week that it’s helpful to be able to connect with the author of an article or blog post. Chad was nice enough to include me with the list of bloggers from Tech&Learning where I recently starting blogging every couple of weeks. As many of our PLNs have grown exponentially, I have truly benefited from the face-to-face connections that I have made as a result of  connections first initiated via Twitter or Diigo. Actually, I remember meeting up with Chad (@imcguy) in Second Life via a Tweet of his many, many months ago.

I decided a while back to use the “Lists” feature in Diigo to gather resources for a seminar that is tonight. The Online Social Networking Safety Seminar is being held at one of the local YMCA’s near me. I knew that many in my PLN had spoken on the topic before, so as I added resources to my list, I also began reading what they had posted on the topic. Here is some of what I found:

Jeff Utecht who blogs at TheThinkingStick had already prepared a workshop for parents and posted the information to his blog. I really liked the questions he suggested that parents ask their children.

  1. What do you think this pictures says about you?
  2. Do you know all (number of friends) of your ‘friends’?
  3. Can you trust everyone on your ‘friends’ list not to download that picture?
  4. What does that update say about you as a person?
  5. Is that who you want to be known as?

BJ Fogg who runs FacebookForParents.org also had a nice list of suggestions. BJ’s list was about signing up for Facebook. I’ll also be sharing this in the seminar tonight.

  1. Join Facebook.
  2. “Friend” your kids.
  3. Review your kids’ profile pages.
  4. Review who is “friends” with your kids.
  5. Select “More About” for your kids.

Dean Shareski who blogs at IdeasandThoughts.org has passionately posted on the topic many times. His posts led me to some extremely relevant research. It’s worth a read (Dean’s posts and the research).

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you might remember the day when I was looking for videos. I’ll be sharing three during the seminar. One is just for fun. You might be able to guess which one 🙂

  1. Social Media Revolution
  2. Facebook Manners and You
  3. The Facebook Song

Lastly, here’s my presentation. I tried to predict what folks might ask. There’s seating for 300. It’s bring-your-own-laptop. I was told to expect approximately 40 parents. I don’t really know what to expect. I’m sure I could have prepared differently, more, better, etc. But I thought I would share it with you.